written by: Logan Mickel
photos courtesy of: UCAT
Parents struggle to find the right car seat or jumper for their child. Imagine going through that process with conjoined twins. It’s no easy task; Amazon doesn’t exactly have a “Conjoined Toddler” department. (I checked.)
That’s when you turn to the experts at the Utah Center for Assistive Technology (UCAT). This intrepid group is devoted to helping disabled persons reach their potential through the use of technology. The jumper for conjoined twins was just one of many unique requests fielded by Director Michael Wollenzien and his team. “Our whole goal is to keep clients happy at home, keep them independent and help them interact with their environment,” he says.
The jumper required a month of work. Measurements and construction had to be precise. While the central brace came from a hammock stand purchased online, the platform, seat, cushioning and harnesses were built in-house. Initially the twins objected to the jumper, but after some quick modifications by Assistive Technician Specialist Kevin Christensen, they embraced it. “Even at the last minute, Kevin was scrambling around with Styrofoam and the sewing machine,” Wollenzien says.
The jumper is just one example of the spectrum of ways UCAT serves clients. Cases range from infants to the elderly, from breath-activated wheelchairs to Smart Pens for high school students with ADHD.
One of their more popular projects, Go Baby Go Cars, modifies electric toy cars to give children with mobility challenges independent movement. This typically involves attaching a car seat to the vehicle and rigging up an accelerator (imagine a throne sticking out of that Barbie Corvette the neighborhood 5-year-old cruises in and you’ll get the picture).
The best part of the job? Christensen doesn’t even have to ponder: “It’s having someone who thought it couldn’t be done and watching them leave the building with a smile on their face.”
UCAT by the numbers:
1996: Unofficial start of UCAT
456: Number of referrals served last year
500+ : Number of anticipated referrals this year
$15-20K: Cost of retail motorized wheelchair
$400: Cost of motorized wheelchair from UCAT
300: Approximate number of wheelchairs in UCAT storage
See more inside our 2018 Mar/Apr Issue.